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Counter-Disengage 3: On What We’re Doing, and What Follows


By Don Todde MacDonnell

If this is your first encounter to the Counter-Disengage Forum, please read the Introductory post kindly provided for your convenience.

The SCA doesn’t officially give us a context for rapier tournaments.  Are we supposed to consider each fight a duel, which mortal results?  This rapidly leads to paradoxes, but it’s the context assumed by Crown Tourney fighter poems (in which the loser is often eulogized), and the custom of falling over dead.  It also means winning (or yielding alive) is pretty darn close to everything, the word-fame of dying at in the third round of Tawanyour Anniversary being somewhat limited.  Given how many of us accept Don Laertes’ offer to yield and seek the aid of a surgeon, or arrange for seconds to carry their body off the field, I doubt many of us approach fights with that mindset, but if you do, I’d love to read your perspective in the comments.


At the other extreme, we’re just here to have fun (and/or competition), fence with our friends, see who wins, then go get dinner.  The tourney context (and by extension, SCA feudal society) is pasted-on chrome.  I do see some newbies and sport fencers who start with this mindset, but many of them either develop an interest in the society culture, or lose interest in the SCA and wander off, leaving few SCA veterans with this philosophy.  Or so I think… again, tell me about it below!


For me, and for most of the people I’ve conversed with, tourneys are a public demonstration of prowess (and other virtues), with bated blades, for the entertainment of the assembled nobles and populace, and a formality that exceeds a practice mentality.  My goal is to show myself skilled, courageous, and gracious in victory or defeat; the audience are the observers of that effort, and in many ways, the reason for the tourney.


I imagine our motivation would have been a similar thing in period, when the crowd was more likely to be armed with rotten fruit, or seeded with nobles whose patronage you hoped to attract.  In both those cases, it matters that you please the crowd one way or another…by winning often if you are able, but also by charming them with wit, impressing them with courage, exciting them with action, or granting the opponent a triumph by collapsing or bowing low in defeat.  One need not win the bout to gain admiration, but you must do something appealing.


So, gentle reader, assuming you hold this last philosophy, or are persuaded that it might be worth trying, I ask a three favors on behalf of the gallery:


First, keep your fights lively.  In a renaissance tournament, it would have been nearly inexcusable for two fighters to stand back and wait for the other to do something for more than a couple minutes (fewer if the tomatoes were ripe).  Even if no one seems to be watching, the marshals are standing in the sun, the next fighters are wandering off, the listmistress is waiting for you to finish, and the knight in the corner is reminiscing about that hourlong rapier final at Starkhafn Anniversary.

Second, die obviously. As a blunt rule of thumb, a deaf newbie 40 feet away should be able to tell that you lost.  Fall over, bow deeply, collapse on the eric post, or drop your sword and mime blood bursting from your chest. Saying “good” to your opponent and shaking his hand doesn’t cut it.  Even if he’s not deaf, the newbie can’t hear your call of “good”, and if she can, probably can’t tell who said what.  Likely, neither can the baroness trying to watch her semifinals.  Cut them some slack and bow deeply.

Finally, remember the audience, and see what happens. Take note of them when you salute.  Imagine their interest as you try an assault.  Amuse them if the fight is dragging.  Maybe you’ll discover a bit more panache or courage in yourself trying to get out.  Maybe someone in the audience will notice your efforts, and something will come of it.  It’s worth a try.

Author: Lot

Don Lot Ramirez is the Captain of the White Star and a Companion of the White Scarf of Caid among other awards, including the Vanguard of Honor and Legion of Courtesy. Mundanely, Jeff is an Online Colorist at Sonicpool in Hollywood, and he teaches classes in Historical Western Martial Arts at the Tattershall School of Defense, in Long Beach, CA.

8 thoughts on “Counter-Disengage 3: On What We’re Doing, and What Follows

  1. Technically, it was a 45 minute final and it was the Queen’s Champion tourney in Starkhafn.

  2. I have always been in the fence for fun camp, but I see your points about making it look good. Dying is one thing I can do well.

    • I admit I glossed over the “fun maven’s” perspective on the gallery because I didn’t develop a strong argument for that case… I’d expect a fun maven would much rather fight lively than win at all costs, but I didn’t have a good counterargument if they were inclined to ignore them.

  3. You bring up an interesting topic. It is true, we should not just be fighting for ourselves, but also for the people who came and took time out of their day to watch us. As for dying so a Deaf (notice the capital letter) person knows what the outcome was, I agree with that too. However, not all of us are a eloquent as Don Colwyn or as confident as you are. I for get flustered when I notice people of importance are watching. I know I have to get past that, but it is a real concern of mine. How would you suggest I get over these obsticles? Are there classes taught in whitty reporte or building confidence in the Eric? Should there be?

    • As it happens, Mora is teaching a class on mental hurdles & sports psychology (Connecting Sword, Hand, and Heart) at Filthy Dirty Collegium in Isles this weekend, and also at Talon-Crescent Festival next month. Here’s this weekend’s link:
      If you’re not charismatically inclined, I think trying to play the crowd will be a distraction. Your fights and attacks tend to be fairly lively, so the gallery should enjoy watching already. Trust in that and keep your focus on executing well, and save the schtick for after a good blow is struck.

  4. On looking dead
    On the melee field, we are often implored to “look dead if we are” and I claim a similar technique will work on the tournament field. Turn your weapon over – symbolically offering it to the victor, if you wish – Bow deeply, take a knee, or otherwise lower your head significantly, and comment loudly, “Well struck.” “The point is yours my friend.” “I yield to you.” Or something a little more than “good.” Try to remain in this posture until the herald calls the outcome. (As a herald, it is very confusing to watch five minutes of intense fighting, blink, and see the combatants embracing one another.)
    I would also recommend the victor offer a hand for shaking or helping his opponent to rise up.

  5. Pingback: Counter-Disengage 4: On Boring Finals |

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